As a gamer, one thing I often find myself doing is thinking about what I want in future installments of series I love to play. What new direction would appeal to me personally as a gamer? How would I improve on the formula established for the series? These are exactly the sort of theoretical scenarios I would discuss with my friends around the dinner table back in high school and college, and now, adventurers, you get to be my friends around the dinner table.
So here’s the totally probable, completely-within-the-realm-of-possible scenario. A Nintendo executive obviously reads my blog daily to see what I have to say about their company and games. Indisputable fact. This executive finally reaches out to me and says something like: “Ian, your ideas are brilliant. Although you have no experience in marketing and your perspective is sorely limited to western audiences, you obviously know what it takes to make a video game with mass appeal. We at Nintendo would like to give you total creative control of any series you like. Tell us what to do to make a masterpiece, and we will create it.” In this very reasonable scenario, I would create five games. Today, I will share these games with you, adventurers. Let’s dive right in!
POKEMON STARVATION AND POKEMON THIRST
There isn’t exactly a lot of emphasis in the Pokemon games on the fact that these mighty creatures are basically the animals of this alternate world. The modern titles – Pokemon Sun and Moon, in particular – have focused on this a little bit more. But primarily throughout the series the only thing that gives us a glimpse into more animalistic nature of Pokemon is the Pokedex and its vivid descriptions. Here are some gems showing off just how brutal of hunters these things can be:
GOREBYSS: Although Gorebyss is the very picture of elegance and beauty while swimming, it is also cruel. When it spots prey, this Pokémon inserts its thin mouth into the prey’s body and drains the prey of its body fluids.
PINSIR: It grips prey with its pincers until the prey is torn in half. What it can’t tear, it tosses far.
VICTREEBEL: Lures prey into its mouth with a honeylike aroma. The helpless prey is melted with a dissolving fluid.
Pokemon aren’t all Skitty and Jigglypuff and Azurill. They can be absolutely deadly, and the game I’d pitch to GameFreak emphasizes that aspect of them. This would be a wilderness survival game in the style of games like Far Cry, Breath of the Wild, or even Minecraft. Hunt and gather food, build yourself a shelter, and try to survive this horrific fantasy world where even the seemingly harmless animals can set you on fire or freeze you solid and then slowly eat you. In Pokemon’s classic two version approach, Starvation and Thirst would each have different Pokemon to murder you. You can trade valuable supplies with someone who has the opposite version from you, but beware – you’ll also introduce dangerous predators from their game into yours, and you may not be equipped to deal with the unique monsters from the other version.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SEVEN YEARS
The Legend of Zelda needs a game where you actually play as the title character – and Hyrule Warriors doesn’t count. Zelda is a great character – she’s smart, has magical powers, and often she is forced to use disguises in order to move about freely beneath the notice of Ganondorf. While Breath of the Wild’s Zelda would no doubt be the most interesting character to be given her own story, it doesn’t necessarily work within the context of that game’s narrative. However, there is a Zelda whose story could be told in a side game that would really flesh out her character and make the lore of that world more interesting: the princess in Ocarina of Time.
During the events for Ocarina of Time (spoilers for an 18 year old game), Link is placed in a magical slumber so that his body can age seven years in order to wield the Master Sword. During that seven year sleep, Ganondorf obtains the Triforce of Power and uses it to kill the king and take over Hyrule. The only person left to protect the kingdom while Link slumbers away is Princess Zelda, who undergoes training with Impa to learn the ways of the Sheikah and then travels the kingdom in disguise, helping people however she can and preparing the way for the Hero of Time.
This could be a cool Zelda game in a lot of ways. With an emphasis on stealth and magic over swordplay and tools, Zelda/Sheik would play differently from Link and this would give the game a unique style. With such dark source material (we know, for example, that by the end of the game Ganondorf would not be defeated and the world is ultimately worse off than it started when he first took over), the story wouldn’t be a typical “courage overcomes evil” sort of tale. It’d be about playing the long game, about doing the right thing even when you won’t see the immediate payoff, and about how you don’t need to be THE hero to be a hero. Exploring this part of the tale of Hyrule would also allow us as players to see different events that we can currently only imagine: the freezing of Zora’s Domain, the revival of Volvagia, the desperate exodus from Castle Town to Kakariko Village. Plus, we need more BA female protagonists in the world, and Nintendo is sitting on a great one with the Zelda franchise.
FIRE EMBLEM: RE-AWAKENING
Fire Emblem: Awakening has been my favorite game in the series so far. I loved in particular the incorporation of the child characters into the game – getting to see how they resembled their parents (or didn’t) and understanding everything that they overcame was really cool. Lucina has been my favorite “lord” character since Ike and I wanted to see more of her in future installments in the series.
I’d like to create a Fire Emblem that follows up where the first Awakening left off. However, rather than follow the lives of the future children who came from their broken timeline to save the world, I think it’d be cool to focus on the new children. The Lucina who was a baby at the end of Awakening, and the children of the other characters in the game as well. This would be anywhere from 18-25 years after the events of the first Awakening, and a new threat has Risen (puns!) that could potentially topple Yllise. Part of the appeal of this game would be mixing familiar characters (Lucina, Owain, Inigo, Cynthia, etc) with new characters unique to the second game. Because these child characters are ultimately different people than the children from Awakening, it wouldn’t undo any shipping and romances from the first game. These characters relate to each other in a different way – the Lucina of Re-Awakening does not have the same relationship with Owain as the Lucina from the original Awakening. They’re different people in this game, which also gives the opportunity for fun personality tweaks here and there.
As far as the threat to Yllise? Why not go all-out in this title and throw in some ancient technology a la Breath of the Wild? It’s something that to my knowledge has not been done before in Fire Emblem and it would create an interesting new aesthetic for this title. Perhaps the monsters that the characters face are fierce machines, and metallic dragon “gods” will be awakening that threaten to tear the kingdoms apart. Will the Falchion stand up to a machine? You have to play the game to find out!
PAPER MARIO AND THE ROYAL REENACTMENT
Listen, the world needs a new Paper Mario game. A proper one. Not that anything was necessarily wrong with Color Splash – I haven’t played it myself due to the lack of a Wii U, but to my understanding the game did a solid job of returning to the quality writing and quirky humor that defined the early games in the series. But fans want a true blue turn-based RPG sequel to The Thousand-Year Door, and I think a fun way to do that would be a return to somewhere we haven’t really been since 1996 – Peach’s Castle.
Here’s the scenario: Bowser has decided that the ultimate way to beat Mario is to re-attempt a scheme he has already tried before. He busts into Peach’s Castle, traps all of her subjects in the paintings, and seals all the doors using the Power Stars that keep the castle running. Now Mario has to go in and explore the worlds within the paintings, rescuing the people of the Mushroom Kingdom and claiming Power Stars in order to open more doors and make his way through the castle to defeat Bowser once again.
None of the painting worlds shown in Super Mario 64 have ever really been revisited again, and doing so could open up some great opportunities for expanding those worlds. Imagine the Bob-Omb Battlefield as the opening world of the game: stern Bob-Omb generals giving Mario orders as he braves the front lines of battle, trying to push into the heart of enemy territory in order to face the dreaded King Bob-Omb. Revisiting old locations isn’t the only goldmine here – returning characters could make great partner characters for Mario. I envision the Lakitu filming Mario’s documentary as the first partner, his camera allowing him to film enemies and serve as the Tattle ability. Koopa the Quick could join in and contribute some great combat abilities based on speed rather than the typical Koopa shell manuevers. The snowman you put back together in Cool Cool Mountain could then join the party and provide much needed ice-based abilities.
Rather than gaining abilities from Stars like in typical Paper Mario games, the different types of hats could give Mario unique combat powers. With the Metal Cap, for example, he could be much heavier and unable to jump, but have better defenses and boast useful immunities. The Invisible Cap could allow Mario to avoid attacks like Vivian’s Veil ability in The Thousand-Year Door. Blending classic Paper Mario elements with fresh ideas inspired by the world of Super Mario 64 could keep the game from feeling stagnant.
TALES OF NINTENDO
Don’t worry, this title will make more sense in a minute. Nintendo has a huge number of original characters each with a rich history and with stories to tell. And those characters all meet together in the form of the fighting game Super Smash Bros. That’s great and all, but I want to see these characters interact in a more complex way than just beating the snot out of each other. I want their stories to come together, their ideologies to clash, their worlds to blend – I want to see these characters together not in a fighting game, but an RPG.
I imagine a story where characters like Bowser, Ganondorf, and Mother Brain work together in a plot to gain control over all of the worlds. While classic villains like King Dedede, K Rool, and Star Wolf could all work beneath them, I envision that mercenary characters like Bayonetta, Captain Falcon, and even Ike could also work with them. Of course, the mercenaries who are good at heart could change sides through events in the story. This game wouldn’t need nearly as many characters as Smash Bros itself – too many included runs the risk of encountering a Chrono Cross level of blandness within the game.
The most appropriate gameplay approach here is probably the action RPG. The Tales combat system sticks out in my mind as a good fit because the controls are already so similar to Smash Bros. You have a basic attack button and you can angle your attacks by pushing a different direction on the control stick. You can assign up to four specials at a time: one neutral, one up, one down, one sideways. Characters have distinct fighting styles based on their weapons and whether or not they cast spells. This combat system would feel naturally to anyone who has played Smash Bros and, though tactical, it is also more action-packed than your typical JRPG.
Hey, wait a second – who makes the Tales series anyway? Namco, right? And who worked on the most recent Smash Bros? Oh yeah, Namco!
The pieces are in place, Nintendo. You just gotta put me in charge.
Now I turn the conversation to you, adventurers! If you were placed in charge of your favorite developer, what games would you want to create? Would you experiment with an existing formula or introduce a new IP to the world? Would you actually play any of the games that I proposed? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading! Especially you, secret Nintendo executive. You can reach out to me anytime now! 😉